Gay marriage supporters hold thank you rally for Obama in Seattleon May 10, 2012 @ 10:57 am (Updated: 12:59 pm - 5/10/12 )
Gay marriage supporters are staging a thank you rally for Obama in Seattle on Thursday. (AP Photo)
A woman who has been at the center of battle for equal rights for same-sex couples in Washington will be hosting a thank you rally for the president during his visit to Seattle on Thursday.
Charlene Strong, became active in the effort after the death of her partner, Kate Fleming. She said a social worker kept her from her partner's bedside and wanted proof of their relationship the night she passed away.
"When we got to Harborview there was a social worker who was at the doors of the emergency room (and) was adamant about needing proof," said Strong. "In Washington state, at the time of Kate's passing, there were no legal protections for same-sex couples."
Strong testified for Washington's Domestic Partnership legislation a month after Kate's death.
She told 97.3 KIRO FM's Ross and Burbank Show that it was an obstacle she never thought she would have to face.
"Heterosexual couples don't generally face the same obstacles at emergency room doors that same-sex couples do because there isn't the language of marriage to recognize our relationship."
She thinks Obama's announced support of gay marriage Wednesday was a watershed moment in the pursuit of equal rights in Washington.
"He's the first president who has really spoken very clearly about supporting same-sex couples, about supporting same-sex marriage," said Strong. "It was a remarkable decision that he made."
Strong said she had the opportunity to meet President Obama at the White House a couple of years ago.
"Listening to him speak, I felt his sincerity about his commitment to the LGBT community, and more in particularly to same-sex couples."
She also doesn't condemn him for not speaking out before now, saying she thinks politics is "a very, very difficult job."
"Is it easy to hear someone kind of side-stepping something? Absolutely not. But I also am smart enough to know [...] you have to know when the timing is correct to make a decision to speak about something."
Strong also sees Obama's visit to Washington as well- timed.
"The referendum 74 people, who would like to take our rights away, have half of the signatures. They feel they'll have the rest by June. Hopefully when someone hears President Obama today, they'll make the decision not to sign that petition to get it on the ballot in June."
For those that are still on the fence, Strong had a message.
"Anyone who's listening that is not quite sure how they feel about this, just be mindful of the fact that we hurt the same way that everyone else does and we have the same families and we build families and we build relationships and we build those memories in love. I think there's nothing wrong in asking for us to have equal rights, not special rights."
Strong and other gay marriage supporters will be gathering in a thank you rally outside President Obama's appearance at the Paramount Theatre at 1:30 on Thursday.
By JAMIE GRISWOLD, MyNorthwest.com Editor
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